ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman tested positive for COVID-19, making her the first public official from St. Pete to reveal a positive test.
Wheeler-Bowman says she began showing symptoms on June 25. Ten days later she woke up at 2 a.m. unable to breathe.
She says she stood up and tried to stretch, placing her hands over her head and pacing around her bedroom, but nothing eased the congested breathing.
“I couldn’t even do three jumping jacks,” said Wheeler-Bowman. That night, which she says she’ll never forget, she prayed for her life.
About four hours later, around 6 a.m., she went for a walk with her husband Lynnie. She says what would normally be a five-minute walk to the street corner took her 30 minutes. Later that morning, Lynnie drove her to urgent care as she sat in the back seat. They both wore masks.
Wheeler-Bowman, 51, said that during the course of the virus she experienced headaches, fevers of up to 102 degrees, sweats, chills and a sore throat.
“This is like the flu to the 129th degree,” said Wheeler-Bowman, who is high-risk with diabetes. She says the fever lasted about 10 days with symptoms growing more severe at night. “I hated when nighttime came.”
Despite the alarming symptoms, Wheeler-Bowman opted not to go to a hospital out of fear. Her mom had recently spent eight days in a hospital intensive care unit on a ventilator after also testing positive. “I didn’t want to go and experience that,” said Wheeler-Bowman.
Earlier this month, Pinellas County Hospitals were completely out of beds as the number of COVID-19 cases has surged throughout the state.
Now, Wheeler-Bowman says she’s completely symptom-free.
“I’m feeling 100 percent,” she said. But, as the number of coronavirus cases increases across the state with no cure, Wheeler-Bowman said she is worried about the risk of contracting the virus again.
Wheeler-Bowman says COVID-19 spread through the family after her 10-year-old grandson contracted the virus. She is calling on local residents to wear masks and protect themselves. “I could’ve died. My mom could’ve died,” she said.
Last Friday was her first day out of quarantine. Wheeler-Bowman was absent from last week’s City Council vote, which allowed nonprofit Orlando Health to take over operations of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, the city’s oldest hospital.
“It was scary,” said Wheeler-Bowman. “People need to take it seriously. And people need to wear masks to protect one another.”
Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes and Hillsborough County School Board member Tamara Shamburger announced last month they had tested positive for the coronavirus.